For those of us of a certain *ahem* age, hearing the word ‘tulips’ can tempt us to start singing Max Bygrave’s 1958 hit, ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’. The opening lines of that great British entertainer’s song start, ‘When its spring again, I’ll bring again, Tulips from Amsterdam’.
Mr Bygraves could oh-so easily have been singing about Arundel because when it’s spring again, the tulips arrive…in Arundel.
If you want to enjoy tulip season, Arundel is the place to be in the UK. This year, Arundel Castle gardeners have planted more than 120,000 tulip bulbs for a colour-filled tulip festival like no other. Against the stunning backdrop of Arundel Castle gardens, a sea of colour sweeps across the flower beds.
Arundel Castle’s Earls Garden and some of the 130,000 tulips
Arundel’s Earl’s Garden looking towards Oberon’s Palace
During the annual Arundel Castle Tulip Festival, 130 different types of tulip burst into bloom from bulbs, which have slept soundly underground throughout the winter months. The coloured flowers catch our attention, and their colourful names capture our imagination. Can you spot the Purple Prince, Curly Sue, Black Parrot, Flaming Flag, or Orange Emperor? Which tulip do you think is the Queen of the Night? We’ll give you a clue… look for the tulip flower so dark it almost looks black.
Have you ever noticed that tulip flowers are symmetrical? It is thought their name comes from the Persian word for turban, which the flower heads are thought to resemble. Tulips, the bright, show-stopping flower in spring’s colour palette, originally grew in areas stretching from Southern Europe to Central Asia. From the 17th century onwards, tulips were popular throughout western Europe. So popular in fact that tulip bulbs were traded like stocks and shares.
Apeldoorn’s Elite Tulip
In 1636, stock exchanges dealt in tulip bulbs. Fortunes were made and lost as the price of tulip bulbs rose and then plummeted. Some people sold their land, valuables – and even houses – to invest in the tulip bulb market. In 1637, at the peak of the tulip bulb trading bubble, some single bulbs sold for more than ten times a skilled craftsman’s annual income!
Today, you can buy tulip bulbs cheaply, but their stunning spring show is priceless. With more than 150 species and 3,000 different varieties, there is a tulip for everyone. They are the 11th wedding anniversary flower and are often used in gift bouquets to send messages of love and best wishes. But be careful! Different tulip colours have different meanings.
Purple tulips are resplendent against their green stalk – and they still signify elegance and royalty. For centuries, purple dye, which could only be made from a crushed Mediterranean sea snail, was a luxury that only the seriously wealthy could afford. Purple became a signifier of status, so much so that in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I inscribed rules governing who was permitted to wear purple into English law.
Striking display in the Castle’s grass labyrinth
Arundel Castle’s head gardener Martin Duncan, who launched the Tulip Festival, with support from the Duke and Duchess and their family, shares his top tulip growing tips with us:
If Martin has to choose two favourite tulip varieties, he will suggest –
To see Arundel tulips at their absolute best, you should plan to visit from early April. This is when you will be able to enjoy tulips throughout the castle gardens. Because Arundel Castle is home to such a huge variety of tulip varieties, the floral display will continue for a few weeks. The best way to make sure you see the tulips in bloom is to check out the Arundel Castle website (https://www.arundelcastle.org) for more information.
Are you ready to sing now? Do you remember the start of this blog? And are you old/young enough to remember the wonderful Max Bygraves? Come on, join in…
With a heart that’s true,
I’ll bring to you,
Tulips from Arundel
Written by Barb Hogan, Visit Arundel
Photos by Charlie Waring
With thanks to Arundel Castle and Head Gardener Martin Duncan